“Funk Master” recently made the second defense of his bantamweight title in the co-main event of UFC 280, where he stopped former champion T.J. Dillashaw with strikes in the second round. The result was somewhat overshadowed by the controversy around Dillashaw’s injured shoulder, but the win was Sterling’s eighth in a row dating back to 2018.
The 33-year-old recently sat down to answer some fan questions on his YouTube channel, and one Twitter user asked Sterling what it’s like to seemingly have a large portion of the U.S. fan base against him when he’s the only American champion in the UFC.
“I’ve always said American fans are weird,” Sterling answered. “I’m American, my parents are Jamaican, my grandparents are Jamaican… This goes to show you, the culture of where I come from is just very different… When people give me sh*t for that, I really don’t understand.
“More than half this country have parents from another country… I embrace the American culture and I embrace my Jamaican heritage as well. When people give me sh*t for that, I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re no different from what I am, the only difference is I acknowledge my roots.'”
“We Tend To Just Like Who We Like’
Sterling won five fights in a row to earn a bantamweight title shot against Petr Yan at UFC 259, but his time as UFC champion has been anything but straightforward.
“Funk Master” famously walked away from that fight with the bantamweight belt after Yan landed an illegal knee late in the fourth round. A rematch at UFC 273 ended with a narrow-split decision win for Sterling, but neither that fight nor his recent win over an injured Dillashaw seem to have legitimized his status as champion in the eyes of some fans.
The 33-year-old has largely handled fan criticism well during his title reign, but he also admits that American fans are unique in the fact that they don’t always feel obligated to root for fighters from their own country.
“I will say this, it’s weird. The fanbase is weird in the fact that we like who we like. We have so many options, where other countries usually only have one or two teams. They don’t have American football, American basketball, for the most part… We have a wide range of things we can attach ourselves to.
“So, when it comes to this, you see a lot less Americans that are die-hard fans for people that are representing their country. We tend to just like who we like. There’s nothing wrong with that… but it is odd when you have one American champ, and you have an American champ fighting a Russian or someone from another country, and the American gets booed.”
The bantamweight title holder recently indicated that he’d like to take a bit of time off after defending his title twice in 2022, but Sterling also teased the possibility of taking on another former champion when he does return to action.
What do you make of Sterling’s comments about American fans not feeling obligated to support fighters from their country?
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